What does being your authentic self actually mean?
We have Oprah to thank for a lot of things and the introduction of the phrase ‘being your authentic self’ is definitely one of them. The downside is that it’s in danger of being over-used and has the potential of becoming another cheesy cliché. Yet how many of us really understand the meaning behind the expression or how being our ‘authentic self’ could benefit us?
My own interpretation is that your authentic self occurs when you feel free to express who you truly are as a person, regardless of your job or where you live and without the influence of others. It is the honest representation of you, the real you, the you only you know. To be authentic means not being overly concerned by what others think about you. It’s about having the courage and confidence in yourself enough to present that version of yourself to the world, all the time.
Traits of Authenticity
- Choosing to do what you want rather than what is expected of you
- Not being afraid to stand out or to shine.
- Expressing your opinions freely, honestly and in a positive way
- Making choices and decisions that fully align with your values and beliefs
- Chasing your passions in life with an irrepressible spirit
- Paying attention to your inner voice and trusting where it is leading you
- Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and being willing to be seen just as you are
- Knowing when you need to remove yourself from toxic situations and people
- Building and maintaining better boundaries in your life
On a much deeper level, authenticity will always show you the path forward for you to be able to live the life you truly want, and deserve, for yourself. When you get clear on what matters to you, you make powerful decisions that align with your values and with the real you. You can then begin to build a life that brings you true meaning and purpose. In doing so, you will also serve to inspire those around you to do the same, and that’s such a gift!
When you think about it, it is who you really are deep down, and therefore the process of learning how to be your authentic self is an essential step in helping you build more meaningful relationships not just with yourself but with those close to you too.
True authenticity occurs when your words, actions, and behaviours consistently match and accurately reflect who you are at your core. If we are being truthful, many of us struggle with expressing ourselves openly, mostly because we are scared of being judged, of being abandoned, of being rejected, of being laughed at or not being accepted.
Do you remember that feeling as a teenager of wanting nothing more but to fit in? The sheer terror you’d experience if, for whatever reason, good or bad, you stood out? Yet, as we progress into our thirties and forties, everything changes and we crave being different and are in fact excited to stand out. Success becomes less about having what others have, or mimicking who they are and becomes much more about bravely showing up as the individual we are.
You look around you and admire those people in particular, who appear to have figured out just who it is they are and have connected with what it is they want out of their lives. What they are also displaying is an ability and quiet confidence to show up as their true authentic selves and you envy them that.
HOW CAN YOU START AND RECREATE THIS FEELING FOR YOURSELF?
Take steps towards greater authenticity
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that you cannot be authentic if you don’t believe in yourself. That may seem obvious but if you doubt your ability to create or shape your life the way you want to, you will always be a mish-mash of who you think others expect you to be. You will continue to focus on being accepted and for your actions to be met with constant approval and acceptance from others. Unsurprisingly, this only guarantees you a lifetime of misery because you will never be able to meet the needs of others if you don’t first meet your own.
On the other hand, when you choose to live more authentically, you end up being guided by your heart, and putting yourself in places and situations that you love and that light you up! You meet people that you appreciate talking to and enjoy spending time with and you experience things that you might have only dreamt of before.
Opportunities and possibilities start to open up before your eyes as your world gets bigger and you end up following your heart and feeling infinitely more fulfilled.
If you don’t believe me, try this.
- Ask yourself when was the last time you felt most authentic?
- Who else was there and what were you doing at the time?
- Are there people or aspects of your life that leave you feeling unhappy, frustrated and resentful?
Sit with your answers and observe them.
- What are they telling you?
- What can you see needs to change?
- Who might you need to change in your life?
You’ll identify those people and activities that bring you the most joy and those that allow you to be your most authentic self when you are with them. You’ll learn quickly that those people need to be prioritised and you’ll want to surround yourself with people who want the best for you, who will support and cheer you on, no matter what. Doing this will provide you with a safe environment where you will feel confident in showing up as your most authentic self.
Remembering that we teach others how to treat us by how we treat ourselves; when we show up as our authentic selves, we are in fact showing the world that we believe that this version of us is worthy of attention.
I’m going to give the last word here to the inimitable Brené Brown, who in her international best-selling book Daring Greatly, explains that “true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” And who would dare argue with Brené?
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach and author. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. Niamh has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.